100% organic cooking for a chef, how obvious is that?

After the LNV Ministry’s organic trade mission to Wallonia and Luxembourg on 8-11 May 2022, the question arose: 100% organic cooking for a chef, how obvious is it? this question was put to Marc Pâquet, the Dutch ambassador’s chef? After all, as part of the trade mission, Marc provided a completely organic drink with snacks for the delegation of Dutch entrepreneurs. This resulted in the interview below with Marc at Agrobericht Buitenland.

Photo source: The Dutch Embassy in Belgium

Have you ever cooked organic food before?
Marc: “Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for this opportunity to gain experience with organic cooking. In 2022, after all, you will find organic ingredients everywhere, so it is quite easy to replace conventional products with organic ones if you are committed to sustainability and health.”

What do you think is the general attitude of chefs towards organic ingredients? Do you think this could develop into an interesting niche market in the future?
“To answer this question, one has to distinguish between chefs who work in the commercial sector of hotels and restaurants on the one hand, and those who work for diplomatic institutions. I know from my own experience that chefs in the commercial sector sector is dealing with a very tight budget, while diplomatic institutions are expected to keep an eye on the budget with due care, because catering at diplomatic institutions is also the ambassador’s and his country’s calling card, but many organic products have become.All in all, this gives a chef at a diplomatic institution has more freedom to put together a menu than his colleagues in the commercial sector. It should be noted that catering at diplomatic institutions has been deprived of luxury ingredients in recent years and has therefore become much more sober, but also more modern, creative more and more fun!”

As a chef, do you think knowing that people eat organic has a positive impact on how people appreciate food?
“Sure, but in a conscious way. People associate organic with healthy and with how their grandparents ate, so organic is also surrounded by some nostalgia, so maybe a psychological effect comes into play. But sometimes they ignore that very organic food from the supermarket comes from industrial organic farming, which does not do justice to this nostalgic aspect, so one should actually prefer to source organic ingredients from the short chain.”

As a chef, you have well-developed taste buds. Can you taste the difference between conventional and organic ingredients?
“With fresh, unprepared products such as vegetables, milk, meat, I taste the difference. Once they are cooked or prepared, no more, with the exception of eggs, where this difference is very obvious. But in addition to the difference in taste, there is also a difference in the joy of work. For example, it is very pleasant for a chef to work with organic eggs for a sauce or cream (among other things because of the color difference in egg yolk).”

Was it a positive experience for you to cook 100% organic food for the organic trade mission?
“It goes without saying! It all started with the purchase of organic ingredients. Although I often buy organic ingredients, in May it was the first time that I only had organic products in the shopping cart. It attracted the positive attention of the other customers. in the store! I knew also that the ambassador’s guests would appreciate my extra effort to prepare purely organically, and that gave me extra job satisfaction. It is also always a pleasure to be able to work with quality products. But technically there was no difference.”

What about your suppliers: did you have to turn to other suppliers or did your usual suppliers have all the necessary ingredients?
“Before answering this question, it must be clear that there is a difference in the range of products between supermarkets on the one hand and specialist organic shops on the other. In the first category there is today an organic alternative for almost all products, but these products come from industrial organic farming Compared to 3 years ago, i.e. before the sanitary crisis COVID-19, the supply in the supermarkets has expanded considerably. The specialized organic shops, on the other hand, have a more limited, better quality, but higher prices.”

“For the reception of the organic trade mission, I put together a menu in my usual way. Then I went looking for the necessary organic ingredients. About 90% of them I found in the supermarkets and for the other 10% I found or my I changed menu or bought in specialized organic shops. For example, I couldn’t find organic bread. So I started making it myself based on organic flour that I could find.”

“Considering the audience at this reception, I put my professional pride in cooking 100% organic. So the salt and pepper used were also organic!”

Do you think you will cook organically more often in the future, also for financial reasons? Do you have any tips for avoiding the extra costs of organic food?
“As I said before, chefs in the commercial sector have to work with too limited a budget to also be able to pay the extra costs for organic food. But as an ambassador chef, I have the opportunity to work with organic ingredients. For example, I always use organic eggs, butter and vegetables, and if I also use the organic variant of other products, I mention this specifically in my menu, e.g. “based on organic quark” to emphasize the health and quality aspect. you have to be a little careful with the mention to preserve the added value of the mention .”

“In terms of tips: manage your waste stream well! For example, the organic ingredients are often available in smaller portions, so you have less waste. That way you avoid waste and therefore costs.”

Can you tell us more about the additional cost of organic ingredients? For example, which organic products are more expensive or cheaper than their conventional variety?
“In general, you can say that organic products are 30% more expensive. But sometimes they are cheaper because they are sold in smaller portions, so there is no waste. This applies, for example, to fresh herbs and vegetables such as green peas. But it is true that the price per kilo is higher than for conventional produce.”

Do you have other comments on cooking with organic ingredients?
“If you really want to convince consumers of the importance of organic cooking, you will have to invest in a certain kind of food literacy among consumers. The success of organic food depends on the consumer’s knowledge of good and healthy food and sustainability. .”

Source: Agro messages abroad

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